Sharing how I keep my milk supply high while breastfeeding, and other tips and tricks I use to boost my milk supply and encourage my body to produce plenty of milk so I can nurse my babies for a year or longer.
I absolutely love breastfeeding my babies. I’m in awe that my body can grow my babies, give birth to them, and then be their sole source of nourishment as they grow.
Last week I shared this image on my Instagram story of my *insane* pumping session after I had filmed a wedding for 11 hours and wasn’t able to pump because my pump got left at home. I got a TON of messages from everyone asking if that is how much I normally pump (it’s not!), and how I produce so much milk. I’ve never had an issue with my milk supply, and I have some great tips to share of what I do and what I’ve learned. I was able to breastfeed Josh for 14 months, and plan on going at least that long with Ryan.
Start Pumping Right From The Beginning
It’s important to tell your body that you need more milk than your baby actually eats by pumping. This way you’ll always have plenty of milk. It’s best (and easiest) to start right from the beginning when your body first starts producing your milk supply. Here is how I do it.
Josh was born 6 weeks early and spent some time in the NICU. I had to start pumping right away to get my milk to come in since Josh wasn’t able to nurse until he was a few days old. Thank goodness for pumps! The hospital had me pumping for 15 minutes every 3 hours, and I ended up having an oversupply issue, which is kind of the best problem to have (and uncomfortable! But I’ll take that over a low supply any day). I never had a supply issue the rest of my nursing journey with Josh, so I decided to do the same for Ryan.
After Ryan was born, I started pumping the day he was born using the pump at the hospital. (They have a pump in the room and all the pumping equipment you need, no need to pack one.) After Ryan would nurse for 10-15 minutes, I would pump for another 15 minutes. At first, I was getting only drops, then after 6 hours I was getting half an ounce. After 24 hours, I was pumping almost 2 ounces. (Which had all the nurses shocked!) We left the hospital when he was 3 days old, and I was pumping 3-4 ounces every pumping session by day 3. I came home from the hospital with a few ounces ready for my freezer stash already, so great! Best of all, Ryan was above his birth weight by day 4, woo hoo!
When we got home from the hospital with Ryan, I started using these Haakaa Silicone Breast Pumps. I am obsessed! You just suction it on, and it slowly releases as it fills with milk. It catches all the extra let down on one side while I would feed Ryan on the other side, plus the suction encourages even more milk to come out. It stays on really well, I only had it fall off twice when Ryan would give it a good kick. After the second time it fell off and milk spilled in the bed (so sad!) I switched to the Football Hold when nursing Ryan and never lost another one. I would position my boppy nursing pillow on the side of me, so it went from the middle of my back to the middle of my front with Ryan laying in the Football Hold on the side, so there was plenty of room for the Haakaa on the side that Ryan wasn’t feeding on.
I did this for every single feeding for the first 6 weeks, even at night. It would collect about 3-4 ounces each time. Using just these pumps, I was able to build up an insane freezer stash. Easily 200 6-ounce bags of breastmilk frozen and ready if I ever need them. We have a deep freezer, so this milk will last for 1 year.
After 6 weeks, Ryan started eating more milk, so I slowly tapered off to every other feeding using the Haakaa, then every 2 feedings, then every 3 feedings, until eventually I was only using it twice a day: in the morning and at night.
By this time, Ryan was about 2 months old, and a lot more active, so using the Haakaa got more difficult. I stopped using the Haakaa, and instead started pumping twice a day. I pump once in the morning after his morning feeding (usually around 6 or 7 am) and once at night after his night feeding (usually at 8pm).
I use this Lansinoh Hand Breast Pump and I love it oh so very much. I can use it anywhere in any room of the house since it doesn’t have to be plugged in. Sometimes I’m even pumping while chasing my 2 year old around the house, ha! It is whisper quiet, the only sound it makes is my milk dripping down. I don’t feel like a dairy cow hooked up to a machine. It’s comfortable because I control the “pulling” pressure since I’m the one pushing down on the handle. It’s very easily transportable because it’s so small. It’s cheap! Less than $25. I have 2, 1 in my diaper backpack that is always in my car, and 1 for at home. And best of all, it gets even more milk than my previous Medela electric pump I used when I had Josh! I haven’t used my electric pump once, and don’t plan on ever using it again. I bring these pumps to weddings, which has been fantastic since I can pump anywhere that feels private and not have the added task of making sure there is an outlet there too. Can you tell I really am obsessed?
The only 2 downsides are it’s pretty tricky to do both sides at the same time. I just pump one side at a time. And I have to hold it, so it’s not hands free like electric pumps can be when using a pumping bra.
During the morning and evening pumping sessions, I pump until I get 5-ounces total combined from both sides (2.5 ounces per side), and then I stop. So I am pumping off an additional 10-ounces a day on top of what Ryan is eating. Which is telling my body it needs to make enough milk for 2 additional feedings than what I actually need for Ryan.
In the morning it’s super easy to get those 5-ounces. During the evening session, if I’m not easily getting 5-ounces I do a lot of massaging to coax the milk out, and sometimes squeeze as if I’m hand expressing while pumping at the same time. I’ve only not gotten to 5-ounces twice in 3.5 months of nursing Ryan, and they were on days Ryan was particularly hungry.
After I practically filled my deep freezer and my sisters deep freezer with frozen milk, I stopped freezing my milk when Ryan was 2 months. What do I do with the extra 10-ounces I pump off? I give it to my 2 year old in a sippy cup! Such a great way for him to get extra nutrients, especially going in to cold and flu season. I give him a sippy cup after he wakes up in the morning and after his nap. He drinks it in his bed as he slowly wakes up.
Supplements, Vitamins and Eating Well
Every day I continue to to take my prenatal vitamins, along with these Thistle Herb & Fenugreek Lactation Support Supplements. I also drank 1 cup of this Mother’s Milk Tea every morning for the first 6 weeks.
I’m very conscious of eating nutrient dense food. What you eat is the fuel for your body to produce milk, and you want to be sure you’re giving it the best fuel possible. Tons of protein, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables and nuts. I do this already, but if you don’t, consider eating a Paleo style diet. (I have TONS of recipes! Haha!)
I avoid dairy all the time, but especially when I’m nursing. Cows milk can be really hard for babies to digest, and it gets in to your breastmilk when you consume it. It can make your baby fussy, which will make them eat less. So I’m extra, extra careful about dairy when I’m breastfeeding, especially the first 6 months.
Drink A Lot of Water
After every feeding/pumping session, I drink 16 ounces of water. Even at night. And I’m drinking tons of water in between too. The more hydrated you are, the more milk you will produce. Plus, I’ve never been more thirsty than when breastfeeding! My body craves water.
The only times I’ve noticed a dip in supply are when I’m not getting enough water. When we’re filming weddings I’m running around and not able to drink much water. When I go to pump, I’ll get just 3 ounces instead of my usual 5.
At night I use this Sigg 1 liter reusable water bottle with this sport top. (I got these at REI years ago for a lot less money than what Amazon is currently charging). I love the sport top because I’m able to drink it lying down without it spilling. I drink the whole liter every night.
During the day, I love my CamelBak Eddy water bottle. I bring it everywhere with me. I love the straw, because I don’t have to lean my head back when drinking it which is so nice when driving or pushing a stroller. And it’s great when we’re at home because Josh can’t knock it over and make a mess, ha!
Try and Not Stress
Stress will drop your milk supply. Especially if that stress is worrying about your milk supply.
If you’re worrying about not making enough milk, and think negative thoughts, that will effect your milk supply. What you tell yourself over and over becomes your reality. What you think about, you bring about. Instead, if you think positively and just continue telling yourself “I know my body is able to produce enough milk for my baby,” you will.
I worried a lot more about my milk supply with Josh (first time mom worries are so strong!), but with Ryan I don’t worry at all and my milk supply is even higher.
Plus, by building up such a huge freezer stash in the first 2 months of nursing by using the Haakaa and pumping, it takes a ton of weight off your shoulders knowing you have plenty of milk, just in case.
If you can, rest and sleep as much as you can. I know, easier said than done, right? Luckily both my boys take their afternoon naps at 12:30ish at the same time (amazing!). If I’m tired I’ll lay down and sleep for 30-60 minutes. Sleep is more important than a clean house or folded laundry or showering.
Quick Boost Foods
Sometimes I need a quick boost in my milk supply. Such as after a time when I myself am sick with a cold or flu. These are foods that really help to jumpstart my milk supply:
These cookies really do boost your milk supply! That is thanks to the oats, brewers yeast, flax seed, hemp seed and coconut oil. I’ll have 2 or 3 a day on days when I need a boost. Check out all those positive reviews in the comments of that post! These have helped a lot of other nursing moms. Plus, they’re delicious! A great treat for momma!
Oats give your milk supply a great boost. I love making overnight oats for breakfast! I’ll also sprinkle in 1 teaspoon brewers yeast, flax meal and hemp seeds. It’s great cold or hot!
Breastfeeding Favorite Things
- This is my favorite nursing bra. I have 4 pairs so I’m not constantly having to do laundry. It doesn’t have an underwire, which is really important to avoid clogged ducts and mastitis.
- The Haakaa Silicone Breast Pump for at least the first 4-6 weeks.
- The Lansinoh Hand Breast Pump once you’re done with the Haakaa
- I’ve used these 4-Ounce Dr. Brown Bottles for both boys when I’m filming weddings or away from home during a feeding. They both took right to them. When they’re older (4 months+), I switch to the 8-Ounce Dr. Brown Bottles.
- I love this Drying Rack for my pump parts and bottles. It’s compact, and a normal white color which blends in to my kitchen perfectly.
- I use this Oxo Bottle Brush to clean the pump parts and bottles.
- I store all my freezer milk in these Lansinoh freezer bags.
- I love these nursing pads to avoid leaking, especially great at night.
- For the first 2 or 3 months I love using my Boppy nursing pillow with these water resistant covers. Great for when the baby is so small and you have those long 20+ minute nursing sessions. Once the baby is bigger and easier to hold, and better at nursing in a shorter amount of time, I don’t use the Boppy anymore. I’ll just prop a couch pillow under my elbow that’s holding the baby for the Cradle Hold nursing position.
- I still use my pregnancy pillow when Side Lying feeding Ryan, which is my favorite nursing position. A chance to lay down and rest and stare at my cute baby? Yes please!
- I take these prenatal vitamins and these Thistle Herb & Fenugreek Lactation Support Supplements.
- I’ve never had an issue with cracked nipples, but I have friends who have who swear by this nipple butter.